Beaver Creek, CO, Nov. 12, 2001--The four-man U.S. men's alpine A Team is anxious to get into the continuous phase of the Cafe de Colombia racing schedule, andespecially anxious to show what they can do when the Olympics return to the USA in February.
"I have to be honest with myself -- and therefore the media," Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) said Friday with a grin, "right now I'm trying to catch-up. I was sick with bronchitis for acouple of weeks the last couple of months, and that definitely put me back farther than I want to be. But I also realize that with a couple of good days I'll be back on the trackquickly...
"Today I'm not where I want to be but I will be shortly."
Schlopy produced his first two podium results last season, finishing second in Bormio, Italy, and at World Cup Finals in Are, Sweden, en route to having the best World Cupgiant slalom results since Phil Mahre in 1983. He battled bronchitis Oct. 28 in the opening GS in Soelden, Austria, but looks to be healthy and more competitive in the next fewdays when he races in the Nature Valley Alpine Cup races opening the Colorado Swing Nov. 15-16 at Loveland Ski Area.
Meeting with national, regional and local journalists after training at Loveland Ski Area, the A Team racers fielded questions during a press conference at The Pines Lodgeand then in less structured "breakout" sessions with each skier fielding questions by himself.
Rahlves: "I'm ready..."
World super G champion Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA), who followed back-to-back downhill wins in Norway in the 2000 season with that super G gold medal last Februaryat the World Championships in St. Anton, Austria, said his preseason regimen included a continual stream of photo shoots and other activities as magazines and televisionoutlets focused on him leading into the Olympic season. The latest spread is a profile and hefty photo layout in Men's Journal with Rahlves demonstrating various conditioningtechniques.
"It hasn't distracted me until recently...a little bit," he conceded. "It's been kind of nice to stay away from the normal training plan until the last week before I came here, and it'snice because it's been a lot of attention for the sport." He said he was "close" to being where he wants as he looks to rapid-start his season in the GS during the Chevy TruckAspen Winternational over Thanksgiving Weekend and the downhill and super G Dec. 1-2 at Beaver Creek. "I've had a good summer of training...
"I'm trying to refocus on the skiing part of things and keep it simple, just exactly what I've been doing in my big races -- Norway, Kitzbuehel and St. Anton. So, I'm ready. I'mready to race."
Rahlves quickly swung the spotlight away from himself and toward his teammates. "I did something big last year, but these other guys have been pulling some huge weightaround, too, on the team. It's not just what I did last year. The entire team is really rocking now. All four of us up here have a chance to do something big this year."
Chad Fleischer (Vail, CO) shook off the injuries he's dealt with the last two seasons (rotator cuff, nagging back) and said he's ready to roll. He met all the training andconditioning goals he set in conjunction with the coaches, he said. "It's been going great and I want to continue that progression and hit the World Cup -- slam it! -- and justkeep running and keep that momentum through the Olympics," Fleischer said.
Fleischer, Rahlves Like Olympic DH
Bode Miller clarified erroneous repots he hadn't undergone any surgery after injuring his left knee in a crash last February during the World Championships in Austria. Hedidn't have reconstructive surgery, he said, but he had two operations on his left knee -- and two on his right knee to repair and clean things from an earlier operation.
Miller said he'd been skiing fast in training and he was pleased finishing fifth in the opening GS in Soelden, especially when a slight bobble on a racer's secoond run on theglacier course could cause him to drop from a top-5 placing to somewhere around 20th. "I was happy to get to the finish and to get some points," he said.
Rahlves: Grizzly, the Olympic DH/SG run at Snowbasin, "is going to be a lot of fun. It's top-to-bottom action. There's not really a slow point as far as the pace of that course. It'sshorter than most of the downhills we have, but there's so much there it'll be a 'full plate' for sure. It's one of those races where it's going to take zero mistakes to have a fastrun, which will be difficult because there's a lot of difficult terrain -- side hills, fallaways, and the timing's critical going into a few of those turns..."
Fleischer: "I think Grizzly favors our whole team. It's got one of the best starts of any World Cups. You have great views from the bottom, so you can watch it, and when you'reup on top of the ridge, you're overlooking the Salt Lake Basin, and it's super-straight down."
Miller: He and Schlopy feed off each other, as Fleischer and Rahlves feel they do. His 11th place finish at Park City in his first World Cup race (the GS during the Chevy TruckAmerica's Opening in November 1997) showed how every skier has a different way of finding success on the World Cup tour. "The one thing one person did to have successdoesn't necessarily work for every person that way. We're all coming at it success from different angles."
Schlopy: He won't live with his family in Park City during the Olympics "because there's so much family and so many friends coming through there it'd be too much energygoing out the door. In Europe, we have our own little pod -- we go to our hotel, we do our own thing ... My cell phone's gonna have a message that says, 'I appreciate yoursupport but I won't get back to you until after the Games. Thanks for calling,' or whatever."